Factory, auto data help Dow set record

The Dow closed at a record high after auto sales and factory data gave new evidence the economy is strengthening. The S&P 500 rose to within two points of its trading high of 1,576, reached in 2007. Traders plowed money back into European stocks as Cyprus appeared to stabilize. Gains abroad lifted US investors’ confidence. ‘Everyone was waiting to see if Europe had problems from Cyprus,’ said Peter Tchir, who runs TF Market Advisors. ‘Instead, we got the all-clear signal.’ Orders to US factories rose 3% in February, driven by demand for aircraft and autos. The gain, the biggest in five months, followed a revised 1% decline in January.